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Archive for August, 2010

Vision for citationstyles.org

Posted in Technology on August 19th, 2010 by darcusb – Comments Off

So awhile ago, I registered the citationstyles.org domain name, and Rintze Zelle and I, with some help from the team at CNMH, moved CSL hosting over to that domain.

As I’ve suggested in an earlier post, however, I have some rather ambitious plans for expanding that site. Following is a bit more fleshed out idea of what I have in mind.

Mendeley has put some resources into a promising new WYSIWYG CSL creation and editing interface. At this point, it’s far enough along to show a lot of promise, but is still missing a number of key CSL features that it really needs to be functional with real world styles. But I expect this will come soon enough.

I would really like to host this new application at citationstyles.org, and to use it to create a community supported style creation and editing repository. So imagine a few example use cases:

  1. Sarah the chemist starts a manuscript she wants to submit to a journal. She does a quick search in her local application (but which is in fact searching a remote repository) for this journal style, but finds it doesn’t exist. The interface includes a link to “create new style”, which brings her to citationstyles.org. Once there, she is prompted for some information about her style that helps the application narrow down exactly what she’s looking for, and presents her with four options that it thinks might be close to what she needs. Upon inspecting the example output, she realizes that her journal style is exactly the same as a style for another journal. Rather than create an entire new style, then, she simply clicks a button, enters the new title and other metadata, and the style is ready for her and others to use.
  2. A variant of the first case, where Sarah finds a style very close to what she needs, but with some important differences. She clicks a button to edit the new style based on this existing style, which presents her with a pre-filled style. She quickly identifies what she needs to change, does so, and then goes on her way. The entire process take her three minutes.
  3. John the psychologist realizes there’s a mistake in the community version of the APA style. He goes to a page for that style, and enters a comment with the relevant information. Another user who has taken responsibility for this (this user could be someone from the publisher or journal itself, BTW), quickly makes the change, and it is instantly available to hundreds of thousands of users of a numbers of different bibliographic applications.
  4. A group of scholars form a new open access journal. They want to make it easy for their users to create consistent citations and bibliographic entries. The new editor goes to citationstyles.org to create a new style, simply bases it wholesale on Chicago, and in two minutes is done: the journal’s styles is available for any to use.
I could add more, of course, but I think this suffices to get across the idea. It is based on my strong belief that academic users—whether they be beginning undergraduates, or senior scholars—really don’t ever want either to:
  1. create styles … unless they don’t exist
  2. edit styles … unless their styles don’t work
In other words, people don’t want to bother with these esoteric details unless they must. And crowd-sourcing the maintenance and evolution of these styles is the sane, practical, thing to do. I want citationstyles.org to be based on this notion. Neither I nor Rintze, however, have the time or skills to realize this vision. So we’d welcome help to make it happen.